Jesus answered, ‘Don’t you know that in the beginning
the Creator made a man and a woman? That’s why a man
leaves his father and mother and gets married.
He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer
two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple
that God has joined together.’”
Matthew 19:4-6 (CEV)
Marriage is important.
It’s a special covenant, established by God, in which a man and woman willingly bind themselves together in love and become one. The Bible uses the marriage relationship as a symbol of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. It’s the foundation of a healthy family and a strong society.
Marriage is hard work…even for Christians.
It’s easy to get married, but difficult to stay married. And the goal is not simply to avoid divorce or separation. Anger, frustration, dysfunction and disconnection are not God’s intention for marriage.
Marriage depends on good communication.
It is vital for husbands and wives to talk with each other about hopes and dreams and spiritual things. Conversations need to deal with more than just work, kids and things that need to be done around the house.
Our goal is to encourage honest, open communication between husbands and wives. We believe that willingness to “risk” in this area can have huge benefits. Part of becoming successful in communication is unlearning some bad habits while cultivating new habits. Some of the bad habits couples get into are:
- Miscommunication… Everyone wants to be understood, but our ability to listen to others is often complicated by our need to say what’s on our mind. In order for good communication to occur a message has to be both sent and received accurately. If a person is focused only on sending a message it will very likely interfere with his or her ability to receive a message.
- Angry Communication… When a conversation starts as a complaint, it’s easy and natural for the receiver to immediately go on the defensive. A critical, blaming tone of voice creates a “survival” mindset in the other person, regardless of the issue. Focusing on your spouse’s failures in a harsh, disrespectful way erodes trust and intimacy.
- Passive Communication… Always giving up or giving in is also unhealthy. A spouse who consistently discounts his or her own wants, needs and feelings is also eroding trust and intimacy. Mutual respect and appreciation requires give and take, and recognizes the interests of both the husband and wife.
- Do look for something to praise your spouse for every day.
- Do make time to talk when there’s not a problem to solve or many distractions.
- Do unto your spouse as you would have him or her do unto you.
- Do appreciate the inherent differences between men and women.
- Do avoid volatile statements like “you always…” or “you never…”
- Do keep in mind what really matters. The goal is not to win an argument. The goal is to have a healthy, vibrant marriage!
- Don’t interrupt the other person.
- Don’t lose your sense of humor.
- Don’t assume that you know what your spouse is going to say.
- Don’t assume that you know how your spouse feels.
- Don’t try to have an important discussion when one or both of you is tired, angry, upset or hungry.
- Don’t stop believing that your marriage is important and worth working for.
Ephesians 5:15-33 (New Living Translation)
“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk… that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit… making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord… For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church… As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Each month we will offer questions for couples to use in having healthy, spiritual conversations with each other. We encourage you to set aside some time – at least once a month – to discuss these questions in a friendly, supportive way. View the archived questions.
July Couples Questions
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
“It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.”Proverbs 18:13 (CEV)
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
One of the keys to a successful marriage is good communication. Making sure that your spouse knows what you’re thinking, and being sensitive to one another’s needs, will enable you to work through any problem that comes along. It’s important to realize that everyone communicates differently. Men and women especially tend to speak, listen and process information in different ways. Sometimes our natural instincts can be counterproductive and work against us. Like most things, though, communication is a learned behavior, and everyone can learn to communicate more effectively.
Here are some basic communication guidelines to keep in mind: Be willing to listen when your spouse needs to talk. As with other things in marriage, you won’t always be “ready” at the same time! Think before you speak. Try to keep the end in mind. What are you really trying to accomplish here? How do you want this to end?
- Do NOT use silence as a “weapon” to frustrate your spouse. If you don’t feel like talking right now, let the other person know that.
- Avoid the emotional downward spiral. It’s possible to disagree on a topic without quarreling. Choose to control your response… even if you feel like screaming.
- When you’re wrong, admit it. Don’t be too proud to apologize and ask for forgiveness. And be willing to offer forgiveness as well. Don’t hold a grudge.
- Try to understand what the other person is feeling. Work to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Remember: the relationship is more important than being “right.”
- Do NOT attack the other person. Avoid name calling, blaming, threatening, and phrases like “you always” or “you never.”
- Be a “safe” person for your spouse to talk to. Don’t jump to conclusions or rush to “fix the problem.” Sometimes it’s OK to just listen as a friend.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your parent’s communication as you were growing up? Why did you choose that number?
- What were some “communication challenges” in your family?
- What is your favorite type or style of communication? How does your personality affect the way you like to communicate?
- Much of our communication with one another is “non-verbal” (tone of voice, body language, etc.). What are some non-verbal obstacles that sometimes get in the way of good communication with your spouse?
- As a general rule, women tend to share and connect with others over problems. On the other hand, men have a tendency to want to fix problems as quickly as possible. How have you dealt with this challenge as a couple?
- What is one thing each of you can focus on this month to improve the communication in your marriage?
We are asking our Adult Bible Study groups to identify “Marriage Enrichment Leaders” who will help to foster this emphasis throughout our church. These individuals are not “experts” nor are they claiming to have a perfect marriage. They are simply concerned members who want to nurture healthy marriages in our congregation. Our hope is that this area will continue to develop over time so that open, honest communication in and about our marriages will become the norm!
If you are interested in becoming a marriage enrichment leader for your Bible Study group, fill out the NEXT Step form.
HOW TO BECOME YOUR SPOUSE’S BEST FRIEND
3 Straightforward Steps to a Relationship that Lasts by Michael Hyatt
What does marriage have to do with leadership? If you are married, everything. Nothing will undermine your effectiveness as a leader faster than a bad marriage.
Your marriage is a living example of what it is like to be in a close relationship with you. This is why it is so important that leaders get this right if they want to influence others.
Getting Our Needs Met
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is very me-centered. Gail and I often talk to people who are frustrated with their spouses. Most of this stems from the fact that they are not getting what they think they need or what they think they should be getting.I am not saying that it is wrong to give voice to your needs. I am saying that it is often an ineffective way to get them met, unless you first sow the seeds of generosity and servanthood. (This is also good practice for being a leader in any sphere of life.)
Gail and I have been married for almost thirty-eight years. We can both honestly say that we are one another’s best friends. We talk constantly, exercise and go on long walks together, and eat almost every meal together. We just love being in each other’s company.
But what if you don’t have this kind of relationship with your spouse? We work with enough couples to know that this kind of intimacy and friendship is rare. But, honestly, we are not special.
I don’t want to be naive, but I don’t think it is that difficult—if you are willing to make the investment. If you are, then I would recommend three straightforward steps:
Step 1. Make a List of What You Would Want in a Best Friend
If you were going to advertise on Craigslist for a best friend, what would the ad look like? Perhaps it might look like this:
Wanted: Best Friend
Prospective candidates will:
• Make me feel good about being me.
• Affirm my best qualities (especially when I am feeling insecure)
• Call out the best in me, and hold me accountable to the best version of myself.
• Listen without judging or trying to fix me.
• Give me the benefit of the doubt.
• Extend grace to me when I am grumpy or having a bad day.
• Remember my birthday, favorite foods, music, and art.
• Know my story and love me regardless.
• Spend time with me, just because they enjoy my company.
• Speak well of me when I am not present.
• Serve me with a joyful spirit and without complaining.
• Speak the truth to me when no one else will.
• Never shame me, diminish me, or make me feel small.
• Become excited about what I am excited about.
• Celebrate my wins!
Step 2. Now Become That Person for Your Spouse
That’s right. Turn the table. Make this a list of the kind of friend you will become. I can promise you this: anyone who does half of these kinds of things will have more friends than he or she knows what to do with. But what if you focused this effort on your spouse? Think of the possibilities.
Psychologist John Gottman has spent years researching what makes some marriages flourish and others fall apart. He found lasting relationships comes down to friendship. Couples who stay married make an intentional effort to connect, share interests, and meet their spouse’s emotional needs.
Step 3. Keep Sowing the Seeds Until the Relationship Blossoms
How long will it take to create this kind of relationship? It all depends on where you are starting. For some, it might be several months. For others, it might take years. Friendships are like gardens; they must be cultivated. The key is to be consistent and persistent—without expectations.
There’s usually reason to hope in almost any circumstance. “[T]here’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship,” says Emily Esfhani Smith.
It’s amazing what can happen when we assume the best and stay meaningfully engaged with our spouses.
This is really nothing more than the application of the Golden Rule to marriage: “Do to others what you would want them to do to you” (Luke 6:31).
If couples would invest in one another like I am suggesting, the divorce rate would plummet. Romance is important. Sex is too. But a solid friendship is the foundation of everything else.
Question: What could you do today to be a better friend to your spouse?
Check out the following Marriage related resources…
Focus on the Family
Intimacy in Marriage
Check out @themarriagebed. Review past tweets. Consider following them. Do you agree? Disagree? Why? By yourself – or even better, with your spouse – read over several of their posts. Click on a couple of links.